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Actress hugs actor in rocking chair with atmospheric light from "window" in background The Gonzalez family leaves the PBS schedule after this season, PBS said. Pictured: Ofelia (Kate del Castillo) comforts Esteban (Esai Morales). (Photo: PBS.)

American Family ends, Masterpiece Theatre cuts back

Originally published in Current, May 10, 2004
By Karen Everhart

The pioneering Latino drama series American Family will end with its second season now airing on PBS, and Masterpiece Theatre will scale back its presence, adjusting to the loss of its lifelong patron Exxon/Mobil.

American Family is well produced and airing in a good timeslot, but “not enough people are watching,” said Coby Atlas, co-chief programmer, at the recent Public Television Programmers Association conference. This frustrates the creative team, funders, PBS and stations, she said.

“We gave it a second season when any other network probably would have run in another direction,” Atlas added.

Given the choice to green-light it again, she would. Producer Gregory Nava's proposal for the season, tied to the Iraq war, broke ground creatively and the program's small audience was ethnically diverse. But Nava isn't proposing new dramatic concepts for the saga and wants to concentrate on film projects, Atlas said. Actors in the series also have other commitments.

Since no corporate white knight has charged in to rescue Masterpiece Theatre after its loss of underwriting, PBS plans to reduce the number of new episodes and have the series share its Sunday timeslot with Mystery! Rebecca Eaton, executive producer for both series, “has to live and die by what's being done in the U.K., and she's seeing better programs on the mystery side,” Atlas explained.

“She’s got a bead on a big package of episodes from Granada,” said John Wilson, co-chief programmer.

The American Mystery! series of Native American detective stories will also carry on without an underwriter, though PBS can’t afford to produce the six-installment miniseries scripted last year. “As much as we can with our limited resources, we’re going to keep them coming” as specials, Atlas said. “We’ll have to fund them one or two at a time and keep looking for a corporate angel.”

Detective-hungry stations also have the option of a new package of mystery repeats offered by syndicator Executive Program Services. EPS chief Alan Foster unveiled a 26-hour package of Granada crime dramas that will feature such familiar titles as Unsuitable Job for a Woman and Sherlock Holmes starring Jeremy Brett. The series will be released this fall and packaged as the Granada Mystery Hour. EPS plans to distribute it fully underwritten, Foster said.

Web page posted May 11, 2004
The newspaper about public TV and radio
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Current Publishing Committee, Takoma Park, Md.
Copyright 2004


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